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Alert after bird, buffalo deaths in Majuli

Jorhat, Jan. 17: The forest department is on alert in Majuli following reports of the poisoning of migratory and domestic birds in the waterbodies near Dakhinpaat Xatra in the eastern part of the river island.

This was followed by complaints of unnatural deaths of four buffalo calves in the area.

The dairy farmers have alleged that the buffaloes have died after coming into contact with this poison.

Atul Das, forest beat officer in the area, said he had received complaints from Tilak Sarma, an avid bird watcher and environmentalist, nearly 10 days ago and had gone and visited the place and had not received any further reports of bird killing.

“I had been told about the bird deaths but we are yet to catch anyone red-handed. We have spoken to a number of people in the villages nearby and also to the inmates of the Dakhipaat Xatra to report to us immediately if anyone is trapping or poisoning the birds,” he said.

Das added that it was very difficult to catch poachers because he did not have adequate manpower and if police help was sought they asked that a vehicle be arranged for them to take them into the interior areas.

The forest official said arrangements were being made for awareness programmes with Aaranyak, an NGO.

“We have conducted many awareness programmes on rhinos in Majuli and the outlying sapori,” he said.

Das, however, said he did not know about the buffaloes dying.

Tilak Sarma, also an officer of the Wildlife Conservation and Study Centre, said many villagers had told him about trapping of the birds. “I had informed the forest department about poaching activities nearly 10 days ago. Many migratory birds like the grey-legged goose and domestic ones like swamp moor hen, lesser whistling teal and wild ducks nested in the number of waterbodies in the area.”

Sarma said the birds were killed for their meat and feathers. The waterbodies, which dot the Sumoimari Kumargaon area, are Magurmora Beel, Barbeel, Boka Beel, Ghata hola, Rambolia Beel and the Dakhinpaat grazing land.

Jantu Kolita, a dairy farmer, told The Telegraph over the phone, that Makhan Kolita and Hemen Dutta had lost a buffalo calf each and Tokheswar Kolita lost two calves.

Last year, he had lost one adult buffalo to poisoning, he alleged. He said the forest department had done nothing to secure the area against bird poaching, which is rampant.

They had, however, not consulted a veterinarian to ascertain the cause of death.

Veterinarian Thaneswar Mudoi said the calves could have died of poisoning.

“We have had earlier cases of cattle dying of Furadone poison, which is given to birds near waterbodies to kill them. If dogs or foxes then consume the meat of these dead animals then they, too, are affected,” he said.